Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1987 (the first French film so honoured in 21 years), Pialat’s Under Satan’s Sun is a dark and demanding study of faith and evil. Adapted from a novel by Georges Bernanos (Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest and Mouchette were also based on works by Bernanos), the film features a powerful performance by Gérard Depardieu as Father Donissan, a simple cleric troubled by his failings as a priest, and given to sado-masochistic self-torture in an attempt to ward off the temptations of flesh and spirit. Pialat himself appears as his concerned superior, while Sandrine Bonnaire is riveting as Mouchette, the 16-year-old adulteress and murderer whose sins convince Donissan that Satan indeed rules the world.
“A film of shattering intensity… the narrative’s rigorous logic, the performances, and the stark visual beauty yield profound pleasures.” — Nigel Floyd, Time Out
“Depardieu is astounding as the Dostoyevskian cleric… he appears to be drawing on reserves of authentic madness.” — Elliot Stein, Village Voice